Babysitter: An American History by Miriam Forman-Brunell

By Miriam Forman-Brunell

On Friday nights many oldsters are looking to have a bit enjoyable together—without the children. yet “getting a sitter”—especially a responsible one—rarely turns out user-friendly. Will the children be secure with “that girl”? it is a query that discomfited mom and dad were asking ever because the emergence of the fashionable American teenage woman approximately a century in the past. In Babysitter, Miriam Forman-Brunell brings severe realization to the ever present, but long-overlooked babysitter within the well known mind's eye and American history.

Informed by means of her examine at the background of adlescent women' tradition, Forman-Brunell analyzes the babysitter, who has embodied adults' basic apprehensions approximately ladies' pursuit of autonomy and empowerment. in reality, the grievances pass either methods, as ladies were distressed by way of unsatisfactory operating stipulations. In her quest to achieve a fuller photograph of this principally unexamined cultural phenomenon, Forman-Brunell analyzes a wealth of numerous assets, corresponding to The Baby-sitter's Club booklet sequence, horror video clips like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, city legends, magazines, newspapers, tv exhibits, pornography, and more.

Forman-Brunell exhibits that past the mundane, comprehensible apprehensions stirred via hiring a caretaker to “mind the kids” in one's own residence, babysitters turned lightning rods for society's higher fears approximately gender and generational swap. finally, specialists' efforts to tame teenage ladies with education classes, handbooks, and different texts did not hinder generations from turning their backs on babysitting.

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Training teenage girls to babysit would get girls off the streets, provide them with socially acceptable public roles, and prepare them to assume important responsibilities as wives and mothers in the postwar world. Instituting a similar approach utilized by Depression-era experts, those during the war presented babysitting in ways that served to attract girls and acculturate them to an approved girlhood. By representing babysitting as a “war job,” they presented the patriotic sitter as a wartime ideal that provided girls with a wholesome and helpful way to contribute to the war effort.

Sometimes wages were paid in part, or not at all. “Staying with the children” still meant having to wash the dishes and do other household chores. That was because homemaking required nearly as much energy, organization, and patience as it had during the Depression. Inadequate housing, the rationing of foods (sugar, coffee, butter, vegetables, meat), the shortages of soap, gasoline, tires, and household appliances (and repairmen to fix them), inflexible supermarket hours, and other obstacles challenged the abilities of all American housewives.

Anxieties about the challenges girls posed to the ideology of domesticity and generational norms led employers to suspect babysitters of overstepping their bounds. While not as wild as adults believed, teenage girls in the process of challenging older notions, constructing new identities as teenagers, and creating an oppositional youth culture, widened the gap between themselves and adults. ” Chapter 4 examines how parents caught between their growing fear of adolescent girls and their increasing need for them sought out the sitting services of other adults—grandmothers, neighbors, mature women—and of teenage boys, widely presented as upstanding, trustworthy, reliable, and responsible.

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